I return from my Saturday morning jog and notice a missed call on my cell phone. I let my heartbeat reach equilibrium before returning it. It’s A, and he’s concerned about team formation.
One of the first assignments for the entrepreneurship class is to form teams consisting of exactly four students each. The pitch I gave in class generated interest from a group of people, but at the time, my primary concern was getting into the class; in the meantime, members of the group made other commitments. The remaining players from that initial group are now interested in pursuing different ideas, and A is among them. I am reluctant to get into an ego battle, so I ask friends for advice. Most of them say it’s just a class and to just back down, but one of them has a different perspective: don’t back down and see where that leads. It could be an interesting experiment.
I revise my pitch and send it out to the initial group, which precipitates A’s phone call. At the time of my response, I am still undecided on how to handle the situation.
“I think we should commit to the team first before deciding on the idea,” says A. “Our team can work really well together, and we can always come up with an idea later.”
The team members he’s proposing are his close friends, so I’m somewhat skeptical. “I’m not so sure I’d be comfortable committing to a team without a project idea,” I respond. “Be honest with me. What did you think of my pitch?”
“Well, I was interested when I first heard it, but my idea just resonates with me, and it’s something that I think solves a real pain that I feel… and others feel. Also, a lot of teams have already formed, and if we don’t commit to a team now, we might all end up on projects we don’t particularly enjoy.”
It’s a moment of truth for me. The worst that could happen if I don’t cave: end up working in a team or project I don’t particularly like. Not great, but not the end of the world. The best that could happen if I don’t cave: working on an exciting idea I like with an interesting and dynamic group of people. What will happen if I don’t cave: I will gain more experience in dealing with uncertainty, which is part of the entrepreneurial process.
I speak. “Well, I’m just not as comfortable committing to a team before having a project, especially since I’ve only just met all of you within the past two weeks. If you really want to pursue your idea, you should pursue it. I’m going to try and pursue mine. That said, given your background, I would love to have you on my team.”
He makes comments expressing frustration, and the conversation ends. I now face a challenge. How do I convince enough people from the limited pool remaining to join my team? I e-mail one of the instructors for advice. He responds:
E-mail the class. Work the process, and use the buck to your advantage.
I e-mail the revised pitch to the class but modify the beginning:
We’re still looking to round out our team. I’ve worked on some of the algorithms that would be involved and see potential for this project both inside and outside the classroom.
I get some responses from students already on teams expressing interest in the project outside of the classroom. Then I get a long e-mail response from A. The interesting part comes in the second paragraph:
Sign me up — I’m in.
Whether or not I recruit enough people for the team, that e-mail response was well worth the experiment.